What Do Alternative Work Schedules in California Involve?
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[fa icon="calendar"] Jun 11, 2020 8:00:00 AM / by Michelle Nystrom

Michelle Nystrom

Alternative Work Schedules in California

closeup headshot young business woman with alarm clock drawing sketch above her head, isolated grey wall background. Human face expressions, emotions. Time, punctuality, busy schedule conceptFor the longest time, the typical workday was rigidly structured. Employees did not have the option of working anything other than the standard 8-to-5 workday, five days a week. However, times have changed. As technology has advanced, so have the ways in which employees can work. Many people now seek alternative work schedules that will complement their personal lives better. Businesses that are capable of providing work schedule flexibility have a significant advantage when it comes to recruiting and hiring highly qualified employees. Adopting an alternative work schedule option is a way to not only attract more qualified job candidates but also to ensure that your existing employees are happy with their work schedules. Happy employees tend to be more productive and will be less likely to leave your company for other opportunities.

Compressed or Flexible Work Schedule

Many people assume that a flexible work schedule allows employees to work remotely for some of the week. However, alternate work schedules focus more on the hours and days of work required in a traditional, out-of-the-home setting, such as the office. The term “alternate work schedule” is a way of describing a work schedule that differs from the standard 8-to-5 hour day and 40-hour workweek. Alternate work schedules are also commonly referred to as “compressed” or “flexible” work schedules. They sometimes look like this:

4/10 Work Schedule

Instead of working eight hours a day, five days a week, the 4/10 work schedule requires that employees work ten hours a day, four days a week. Such a compressed work schedule is popular with employees since their workdays will only be two hours longer, but they will get a full additional day off every week (in some cases allowing them to enjoy a three-day weekend). When such a work schedule is adopted, employees will forgo collecting daily overtime since California overtime laws consider anything over eight hours a day to be overtime. 

9/80 Work Schedule

A 9/80 work schedule is somewhat similar to the 4/10 in that it will still amount to 40 hours a week on average. However, the structuring of the hours is much more unique. An employee working a 9/80 work schedule will typically work eight nine-hour days and one eight-hour day during a two-week period. This schedule means that in addition to the standard weekends off, the employee will get an extra day off. The one eight-hour day is usually split into two four-hour periods as well, which provides flexibility to employees who may need to take an afternoon off for whatever reason. The 9/80 work schedule only requires employees to work a little longer than the traditional work schedule, but less on a daily basis than the 4/10 work schedule. Like the 4/10 work schedule, employees working a 9/80 work schedule must forego their daily overtime pay.

3/12 Work Schedule

A 12-hour day can be very intensive, which is why few companies outside of the healthcare industry will adopt a 3/12 work schedule. However, within the healthcare industry, a 3/12 schedule is very common. Although the days are very long, employees who work a 3/12 schedule will be given four days off every week to rest and to enjoy their personal lives. However, because a 3/12 workweek only adds up to a total of 36 hours a week, employees will typically be required to complete an extra eight-hour day on alternating weeks to ensure that they complete a full 80-hour pay period every two weeks.

California Labor Code Section 510

As previously mentioned, overtime does not apply to employees who are employed on an alternative work schedule. Typically, anyone who works over eight hours in a day is required to receive overtime pay, as stated in section 510(a)(1) of the California Labor Code. However, this law wouldn’t make sense in the context of an alternate work schedule. Because you won’t be required to pay daily overtime, you will have to make sure that the alternative work schedule is adopted correctly. To ensure that you remain compliant with California’s rules and regulations regarding alternative work schedules, you will need to understand these issues:

Secret Election Ballot

An alternative work schedule cannot be applied to just one employee since it requires them to waive their right to receive overtime. To legally adopt an alternative work schedule that requires no more than ten hours of straight time per day without overtime, you will need to receive approval from at least two-thirds of your employees. You will need to have your employees vote on the alternative work schedule via a secret election ballot. 

Proper Disclosure

When holding a secret election ballot, you will need to make sure that you disclose all aspects of the proposed alternative work schedule. Improper disclosure can lead to legal implications in the future. With that in mind, the alternative work schedule proposal should disclose which employees will be affected and how employee wages, hours, and benefits will be affected.

Labor Code 511

California’s Labor Code 511 lists several requirements that you will need to follow to implement an alternative work schedule. Besides holding a secret election ballot and adequately disclosing the information affected employees need to make an informed vote, you will also need to do the following:

  • You must provide the alternative work schedule proposal as a written agreement.

  • If five percent or more of your affected employees speak a different language, then you must provide a proposal disclosure in that language as well as in English.

  • You must hold a meeting at least 14 days before the scheduled secret ballot vote to go over the proposal. Affected employees must also be adequately informed about this meeting.

  • Following the secret ballot election, you must provide the results to the California Division of Labor Statistics and Research.

  • If the alternate work schedule proposal passes, you must wait at least 30 days after the election before you can implement the new work schedule.

  • You cannot intimidate or force employees to vote for the alternative work schedule proposal.

Benefits Of Flexible Work Schedule

An alternative work schedule is not something you can just implement off the cuff, as you can see. Because of the overtime issue, adopting the new schedule requires careful planning and voting. It may seem like a lot of work, especially since it will take a few months at the minimum from the time you begin the adoption process to the time that you finally implement the new alternative work schedule. However, the time and effort can be well worth it when you consider the potential benefits. The following are just a few of the ways in which both your employees and your company can benefit from a flexible work schedule:

  • No Overtime Liability - Companies that implement an alternative work schedule won’t be required to pay their employees overtime based on the regular California overtime requirements. Employees will have more time during the day to get their work done as well, thereby limiting the need to work overtime. Not only can this help save you money, but it can also make payroll less complicated. Overtime will still apply for hours worked beyond the alternative work schedule and anything over 40 in a week. 

  • Added Flexibility - One of the significant drawbacks of the standard workweek is that it doesn’t provide employees with the time they often need to complete tasks that can only be done during the week. For example, employees can't go to the doctor’s office on the weekend. An alternative work schedule typically provides employees with an additional day off every one to two weeks, offering more flexibility to plan their personal lives around their work schedule.

  • Increased Employee Morale - Even though most alternative work schedules require longer hours per day, employees tend to be much happier due to the additional days off. Working five days in a row can be tough, especially if employees are juggling a large workload. An extra day off every week or every two weeks can help give employees the break they need.

  • Better Employee Engagement - Employees are less likely to get burned out on an alternative work schedule since they will have more days off. They will be more engaged during the days that they are at work, which can lead to better productivity and performance.

  • Improved Health - It’s unhealthy to overwork your employees. They will become both physically and emotionally exhausted, which can affect their health. Giving them more days off gives them a chance to recover from a hard day’s work. A day off gives them the time to recover if they’re not feeling well instead of having to work through it, which will only result in employees having to call in sick.

A Better Work-Life Balance

Ultimately, an alternative work schedule can benefit both employers and employees. Providing your employees with the opportunity to vote on and adopt an alternative work schedule can make them feel like valued members of your organization. By offering an alternative work schedule, you’re offering them more work flexibility, which they can take advantage of to improve their work-life balance. 

In the end, you’ll have happier, healthier employees, who will be more motivated and productive. As a side benefit, you will no doubt help strengthen your employer-employee relationships as well, which will help drive success over the long run. An alternative work schedule can also be an enticing incentive for potential job candidates.

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This blog post is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  No attorney-client relationship is created between the author and reader of this blog post, and its content should not be relied upon as legal advice.  Readers are urged to consult legal counsel when seeking legal advice.

Topics: Company Culture